A Better Way to Die
A Better Way to Die is like so many other crime dramas. There are a lot of explosions, a lot of gunfights and a LOT of fake blood. The story follows a cop that is disenchanted with the realities of the police force. When his partner executes a criminal that shot a follow cop Boomer (Scott Wiper) leaves the force and heads off to ask the girl he left behind, Kelly (Natasha Henstridge) to marry him. Meanwhile, a drunk, womanizing FBI agent Bill Dexter (Lou Diamond Philips) is impressed back into service. He is needed to find an undercover agent that has a computer chip with information vital to crushing a mob family. The mob is also, of course, after the agent as is his ex-wife. The mob has hired a couple of out of town killers to help in the search, Cleveland (Andre Braugher) and his cousin Sweet Lou (Bnard Lewis). Over the course of the film much happens to poor Boomer. He is kidnapped, tortured and sees almost everyone around him brutally murdered. The plot is a bit thick in places but fairly easy to follow. Part of this is we have all seen this movie many times before, different titles and cast perhaps but still the same fundamental plot is there. What separates this film from others is that Boomer comes across as a likable guy. An every man, the typical reasonable man set in unreasonable circumstances. The audience can identify with this cop that at first was reticent to swear but finding he has to kill just to stay alive. All foundation in normal life is stripped from this man as we watch. Its kind of like a soap opera, such bad things happen to the main character that we have to feel good about our lives.
Wiper as a quiet, understated manner in his role as Boomer. This is what works in his portrayal of a man on the edge. In many films like this an actor may give into the temptation to over do it, to push the limits. Instead, Wiper takes the opposite approach. He plays the role with the restraint that the character would have to show in order to survive. Unfortunately, many of the bigger names like Henstridge and Philips are as close to cameos as possible. A lot of talent went to waste by not expanding their roles. Such expansion may have hurt the film more by taking the focus off of Boomer. The best option may have been to save some of the budget and give a chance to some lesser know actors. Next to Wiper the best performance is from Braugher. The murderer with a strange moral code and some actual good inside. Braugher has talent to spare for such a role and brings life to this character. In all, for a run of the mill crime film the acting is above average.
Not only does Scott Wiper star in this film he wrote and directed it. He also wrote, directed and produced the 1995 Martin Short film Captain Jack. He as a way of telling the story of a typical middle class man in very unusual circumstances. His direction in this film dies carry the tale. Nothing fancy but in a very positive way. The scenes are paced well, giving the expository scenes enough time to settle in with the audience. He even injects a little humor here and there to keep things from getting too heavy. For example, in the scenes with Joe Patoliano as a handicapped private detective. His truck is a rolling bag of tricks and good for a much-needed laugh. Wiper handles the framing of the scenes well with a flair for background. His lighting is well done, clear and to the point. He has a potential as both an actor and as a director.
The disc itself is up to contemporary standards and even goes beyond them. The audio is presented in both Dolby 5.1 and a thumping DTS. While a bit too heavy on the lower frequencies the overall use of the sound field demonstrates some degree of attention to details. The video is anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen. The disc is a bit light in the usual extras. There is an interesting commentary. It holds your interest because it provides the viewpoint of Wiper as actor, director and writer. The bottom line is the DVD is worth having if you are a fan of the crime genre in general. The film is good for having some friends over for beer and pizza. Not a heavy hitter but better than a lot Ive seen in the past few months.